Birmingham’s Charles Linn and his Linn Park statue

Local News

A statue of Birmingham businessman Charles Linn lying in Linn Park after being pulled down during a protest Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Courtesy of Landon Wexler)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — It didn’t take long for the protesters in Linn Park Sunday night to take out their anger and frustration on the Confederate monuments and statues.

For some in the city, the monuments were a point of historic pride. For others, they were painful reminders of when the black community was considered less than human by those who enslaved them. The Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument, the 52-foot-tall stone pillar the group came for, did not fall that night, but not for a lack of trying. Men and women took hammers and rocks to the obelisk, but it was too big to come down.

Ultimately, the group turned their attention to a bronze statue of Charles Linn that had been in the park since 2013. The crowd cheered as it fell to the ground.

But who was Charles Linn?

Courtesy of the Birmingham Public Library

According to records at Birmingham’s Oak Hill Cemetery, where the Finnish-born sailor and businessman is buried, Linn was born in 1814 and came to America in 1833. Originally born Carl Erik Engelbert Sjödahl, Linn had spent his youth as a sailor, crossing the Atlantic and back many times before coming to America and eventually settling in Montgomery in 1838. Early on, Linn worked as a matchmaker, but then went into the fruit business before getting into the mercantile business, where he made his initial wealth.

During the Civil War, Linn sold his farm and joined the Confederate State Navy as a captain, where one of his primary duties was shipping cotton. On July 14, 1863, Linn and his son were captured as they sailed on their ship, Kate Dale. They were taken to Washington to be tried, but were pardoned.

After his release, Linn worked in the grocery business in New Orleans before coming back to Alabama in 1871. In 1872, Linn was part of the launch of the National Bank of Birmingham, the first bank in the newly-founded city. The bank, located on the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street, was known as “Linn’s Folly.” Through many iterations and mergers over the years, National Bank of Birmingham would eventually become AmSouth Bancorporation.

In 1873, Linn began serving on the Birmingham Board of Aldermen under then-mayor James Powell. In later life, Linn started up Linn Iron Works and the Birmingham Car and Foundry Company. He died in 1882.

Linn Park was originally named Capitol Park when it was first built in the 1880s and Woodrow Wilson Park in 1918. It was renamed for Linn in 1988.


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